Teide Peak via Pico Viejo
Last Wednesday, I went up Mt Teide with three friends. We decided to walk up from the Roques de Garcia opposite the Parador on path 23 which goes to Pico Viejo. I had never done this route before and it turned out to be a really lovely walk, with remarkable volcanic interest and landscape. In the summer with the flowers out it would be even more spectacular, with the scent of the white flowers of Retama del Teide (Spartocytisus supranubius) and all the colours of the yellow flixweed (Descourainia bourgaeana) and Teide sticky broom (Adenocarpus viscosus) mixed with the pink of the shrubby scabious (Pterocephalus lasiospermus). We had been going to do the trip in June and would have had that bonus if we had, but would have also had the drawback of the hotter sun. The weather on Wednesday could not have been more favourable for a tough walk, it was sunny and pleasantly warm with a light breeze to cool us. The only complaint was that the views were a bit hazy – not so good for the photos.
Path 23 introduces itself at the start as ‘A path through Teide’s and Pico Viejo’s pahoehoe and aa lava flows’ and it certainly lives up to the description. It starts out on the smooth surfaced pahoehoe lava from Pico Viejo, and then crosses some dark grey, loose, aa lava from Teide, back onto some old well-weathered Pico Viejo lava covered with plants, then over more aa lava from Teide before reaching the ridge near the Pico Viejo crater. So there are a number of little ups and downs on the route where you either cross a lava flow, or cross the levees or cooled banks of lava at the edge of flows, between which the lava flowed before ending dried up as the lava ceased flowing. In the valleys between the ridges there was a lot of vegetation, right up until we nearly reached the ridge at 2900m. In the valleys there were also accretion balls of lava that had rolled down from the aa lava flows on the steep slopes. These are sometimes called ‘Teide’s eggs’, like the ones around Montaña Blanca on our way down.
Once we reach the junction of path 23 with path 9, on the ridge, we decided to go a little way to the left to have a look into Pico Viejo’s huge crater. I had heard, and seen from a distance, about the solidified lava lake sitting in part of the crater, and wanted to see it close up, but was disappointed that I could not see it. Of course, I was looking straight at the side of it, as became clear when we looked back from higher up, but from the viewpoint we were looking from, the flat top of the lava lake was out of sight above us.
Returning from the crater we started the climb up the ridge between Pico Viejo and Teide. This was the difficult bit of the walk, as, after a short walk on pumice, apparently from an eruption from Montaña Blanca, we began the walk up an aa flow from Teide composed of loose rocks and boulders. The path was reasonably well-marked, although at times you had to look hard to know which way you were supposed to walk. It was hard-going and slow walking upwards, but reasonably safe as long as you watched your feet. However, I would not like to walk it downwards, where the loose stones on some steep stretches could cause falls.
After two and a quarter hours of difficult walking up this rocky stretch we reached the mirador at the end of the cobbled path from the top of the cable car. The cobbles were very welcome, making much easier walking for tired legs. By now the evening was cooling, and we had been walking for 7 hours, and still had to get past the cable car and down the path to the Altavista Refugio before dark, which we managed.
The night in the Refugio was not very restful, with 14 people in the dormitory, some going to bed comparatively late, and lights going on and off and torches flashing, snorers, etc. It ended earlier than we had intended, too, when the first couple decided to rise at 4.30 a.m. – there was no sleeping after that! So we left the Refugio at 5.30 to go up to the peak of Teide for the dawn, feeling jaded. This was when we found that we had only two torches between 4 of us, and there was little moonlight. However, we did make it to the peak in time for dawn and found seats on the rocks to watch it. We had left the Refugio with the thermometer standing at +8˚C, but 400m higher, and exposed to a moderate wind it felt a lot colder than that, so with all our layers on, we waited. Unfortunately, there was a lot of cloud, and after a streak of red between some clouds began to fade, and it began to get light it became clear that we were not going to see the sun rise. So we took some photos around the crater and began the descent.
We went down past the Refugio again, and down the seemingly endless zig-zags to Montaña Blanca. The path despite the zig-zags is still quite steep, and stony, so quite hard on tired legs. At the bottom of that section we continued down path 7, now easy walking on a pumice track until we met path 6. Going left, path 6 continued on an easy pumice surface until we got to El Portillo. We could then relax, have a beer and a decent meal while we waited for the bus to take us home.